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Finding our niche

Barbados TODAY is always a good early-morning read to open the windows of the mind, sir, and to stir the few remaining neurons into activity!

Ours is indeed a small, open and mixed economy. Added to this are two inescapable facts: Our competitors are no longer only our Caribbean neighbours (who often do not play by the agreed rules of the game), but also but every single sovereign country on God’s earth.

The very game itself, is changing, as the global economy itself morphs into a “big-soup”, where smart Iranian youngsters emigrate to work for Apple in America; then equally smart Indian youngsters in Mumbai finish-off the software, and the actual product pops out of Foxcon factory in Taiwan – to be be sold by (and for) the millions back in US! While we cannot realistically match this sort of game, there are always niches. And one always is rewarded, by thinking, and planning, and implementing long-term, no matter how attractive short-term necessities might be.

We must regularly review our own basic requirements, and best options for the near, medium, and long terms. These will be dynamic, and must never be carved in stone. The simplest “tool” which I come back to, is the old “SWOT” – Strengths, Threats, Opportunities and Threats. This focuses the mind like nothing else.

And whenever doing this exercise, please include the teenagers, the young and our women. Don’t just ask those folks with Phd’s at the end of their name, but be sure to include them too. And include farmers and fishermen.

As for energy, could someone please tell me how much energy we consume (a percentage of total national usage would do), by air-conditioning everything here, and on transportation? (We not only A/C our cars; we A/C our tinned foods, corn-flakes, toilet-tissue, clothes on the rack in Bridgetown, jewellery, shoes etc etc. Does anyone have any idea?

Unless the scientists are dead wrong, look for an increase in average global temperatures of up to six degrees Celsius, during this century. What might be our official, strategic, scientific, master-plan to deal with this? Perhaps, just turn the A/C trermostat “a bit lower”?

I never thought that we as a nation could become addicted to chilled air – like cocaine! All the while, those lovely trade winds that brought the English here continue to gently soothe additional hordes arriving ex-Virgin Atlantic! What if we could cut 15 per cent off our many prices (with a commensurate foreign exchange saving), by dumping (or severely restricting) air-conditioning everything?

If no-one has any idea, then at least, please tell me that we will think seriously about making an about-turn when oil reaches $225 per barrel.

Doan believe me? If you can, win Lotto, take a week at Curtain Bluff Resort in Antigua. Last I saw, their suites had no a/c, just superbly-designed rooms, with a fan or two, and the same gentle breezes blowing over the sound of the surf. Heaven!

— Tony Webster

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